How football is a match between sport and sadness


Central Europe

Johannes Blöcher-Weil and Martin Schlorke, PRO

Football fans in Munich in June. Photo EPA, Martin Divisek

Thousands are watching enthusiastically at the stadiums in Germany to follow the European Football Championship. But this is not only a “summer fairy tale”. A dark side of the tournament is being forgotten: the exploitation of women.

For most European football fans, the tournament is likely to be the highlight of the year. Whether it’s a stadium atmosphere, beer garden atmosphere, or public viewing, the atmosphere will be exuberant up and down the country.

But the European Championship also has its downsides. For months, organisations have been warning of even greater exploitation of prostitutes than already takes place. Germany is regarded as the “brothel of Europe” and a hub for forced prostitution and human trafficking. The situation could now deteriorate further.

The Bundesverband Nordisches Modell (Federal Association of the Nordic Model) expects an increase in forced prostitution during the European Football Championship. This warning comes as no surprise. During the last major football tournament in Germany, the “summer fairy tale” in 2006, the EU Parliament already pointed out the increase in prostitution during such a significant event.


Gerhard Schönborn, who is now the chairman of the Christian aid organisation Café Neustart, also experienced this in 2006. Bulgarian women, for example, were brought to Berlin, especially for the World Cup, and then returned to their home country after the tournament. He expects a similar scenario at this year’s European Championships.

The Association of German Criminal Investigators (BDK) also said that demand is expected to increase. One reason for this is that many people whose home countries, such as Sweden, have banned prostitution are coming to Germany. An increase in forced prostitution is also to be expected for this reason.

However, it would be unrealistic to counteract this with increased controls in brothels and elsewhere. After all, the police already have their hands full securing stadiums, fan miles, and defence against terrorism.

Red card

To draw attention to the problem, several organisations have launched the “RoteKarteFürFreier” (red card for lovers) campaign. The initiators want to draw attention to the abuses and encourage people to take a stand against forced prostitution on social media. Everyone is invited to post a photo of themselves and a red card labelled “#RoteKartefürFreier” on social media. The cards can be ordered on the website of the Bundesverband Nordisches Modell.

What can churches do?

The European Championship can be a missionary opportunity. Christians are offering special activities.

The coordinator sports for the German Protestant Church, Thorsten Latzel. Photo Fussball-Begeistert.de

Germany’s two major Christian churches (the Protestant EKD and the Roman Catholic RCC) have launched two ecumenical online campaigns. On the joint website fussball-begeistert.de, football fans can find ideas and material for activities and church services to mark the European Championships. Fans can offer or search for accommodation on host4euro.come.


At fussballmitvision.de, professional footballers talk about what their Christian faith means to them in videos. Short statements, reels, autograph cards and “kicker Bibles” exist.

The initiative aims to reach people who have not previously had much to do with faith. The association is made up of active and ex-professional footballers who are united by their faith and passion for football. It offers programmes on the subject of professional football and faith for schools, sports clubs, communities, and performance-oriented professional footballers.


EUFA flag near church in Frankfurt. Photo AFP, Kirill Kudryavtsev

Football inspires and emotionalises. The GlaubEMitKick initiative wants to use these emotions and euphoria to give people hope greater than any European Championship title.

At sprinkle.net, you can find ideas for evangelistic campaigns around the European championships. The participating associations and organisations make digital content, such as testimonial videos of believing professional footballers, free of charge.

There are also specific ideas for street campaigns during the European Championships for churches and groups. The website also compiles evangelistic products that are especially suitable for use during the European Championships, such as football Bibles or portraits of well-known footballers and coaches.



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